Although this is the short session for the Virginia General Assembly, there are three key bills aimed at imposing green building standards for public construction. Each of the bills proposes to set green building standards for any public building exceeding five thousand (5,000) square feet, either for new construction or renovations where the cost of the renovation exceeds 50 percent of the value of the building.

The genesis for these pieces of legislation are two Executive Orders concerning green building for public buildings. Former Governor Timothy Kane issued Executive Order No. 82 in 2009 with the purpose of bringing the Commonwealth in line with initiatives taken by several localities. Virginia state government is charged in Article XI of the Constitution of Virginia to act as a steward of the Commonwealth's resources, protecting them for future generations. Among its directives, Executive Order 82 provides that "All executive branch agencies and institutions entering the design phase for construction of a new building greater than 5,000 gross square feet in size, or renovating such a building where the cost of renovation exceeds 50 percent of the value of the building, shall ... conform to LEED silver or Green Globes two-globe standards, unless an exemption from such standards is granted by the Director of Department of General Services (DGS) upon a written finding of special circumstances that make construction to the standards impracticable."

In his first year of office, Governor Bob McDonnell issued Executive Order No. 19 (2010) echoing the same directives as his predecessor. Executive Order No. 82 states, "All new or renovated buildings of more than 5,000 gross square feet, or renovating such a building where the cost of renovation exceeds 50 percent of the value of the building, should conform to LEED silver or Green Globes two-globe standards, unless special circumstances, including significant additional cost, support exemption from such standards and the Director of the DGS finds that construction to the standards would be impracticable."

The current proposed legislation would codify the polices established by the referenced Executive Orders. The first bill is Senate Bill (SB) 832. It requires executive branch agencies and institutions entering the design phase for construction of a new building greater than 5,000 gross square feet in size, or renovating such a building where the cost of renovation exceeds 50 percent of the value of the building, to conform to Virginia Energy Conservation and Environmental Standards developed by the DGS considering LEED green building rating standards, the Green Building Initiative "Green Globes" building standards, and other appropriate requirements. However, exemptions from the green building requirements may be granted by the Director of the DGS upon a finding of special circumstances that make construction or renovation to the standards impracticable. SB 832 was passed by the Senate on February 2 and referred for consideration to the House Committee on General Laws on February 7.

The House also has its versions of green building legislation under consideration. House Bill (HB) 2262 is similar to the Senate Bill for the described construction, but it specifies building compliance with either the LEED Silver or Green Globes two globe standards. Similar to SB 832, the House Bill provides exemptions from the requirement granted by the Director of the DGS for state construction projects, but includes authority to grant exemptions by the governing body of a locality or school board for local projects. This Bill was referred to the House Committee on General Laws and on February 3 received a "no action" vote from its assigned subcommittee, and on February 8 was left in the General Laws Committee.

In addition to HB 2262, the House is considering HB 1817. This Bill includes compliance with either the LEED Silver or Green Globes two globe standard for buildings and renovations as described in the other two Bills, but also adds additional energy efficiency requirements to the standards. On February 3 the House subcommittee reviewing the Bill voted by voice vote to consolidate HB 2262 and HB 1817. As of February 8, the Bill remains in the House Committee on General Laws.

These Bills merit strong considerations and we will continue to follow them to update the status of the Bill as the legislative session moves forward.